Authors: Rainey Anne
“We don’t need help from her kind. We have everything we need to open the restaurant. Supplies are bought, extra help has been hired, and the remodel is complete,” Reilly said as he glared across the room at him. “Sarah isn’t welcome around the restaurant, and she sure as hell isn’t welcome around this family. Even if she is a sexy blonde with legs that go on for miles.”
“Blonde?” Sam asked as he looked from Reilly to Brodix. “I sense there’s more to this story. Brodix?”
Brodix could feel the heat creeping up the back of his neck as everyone’s gazes landed on him. “Her looks have nothing to do with the fact we need help promoting the grand opening.”
Sam cocked his head to the side and stared at him. No one said a word. As they’d done in the past, they all waited for Sam to make up his mind first. Since he was the oldest, that was usually the way it went.
“You really think the restaurant needs this?” Sam asked.
Brodix slumped in his seat. God, he was so tired of trying to manage the restaurant’s finances along with his own career too. Burning the candle at both ends was getting to all of them. “I never would’ve brought it up if I didn’t, Sammy. We might have everything we need to open, but without customers, we’ll go under. It’ll all be for nothing.”
“Okay,” Sammy said, his voice firm. “Assuming Sarah will agree to direct all her questions to Brodix, then I see no reason why we shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.”
“You’re okay with this woman digging around where she doesn’t belong?” River asked, his anger rising with each word. “Stirring up shit that’s best left alone? Hell, look what she did to Mayor Coburn.”
Sammy stood and faced his brother’s angry glare. “I’m not overly comfortable with someone with her track record sniffing around either. But I’m also not going to turn my nose up at her offer simply because she made one mistake. We’ve all made mistakes, River.” He paused, then added, “If Brodix says we need the publicity to give the restaurant a decent fresh start, then I believe him. No one knows finances like he does.” When River started to speak, Sammy held up a hand. “And before you say anything else, I’d also like to say that I trust Brodix to keep Sarah in line.” He quirked a brow. “Don’t you?”
“I wouldn’t let anyone hurt my family,” Brodix stated as he looked each of his brothers square in the eye. “You should all know that by now.”
Reilly was the first to look away. Neither he nor River spoke. Vance shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “I’m not real fond of reporters either, but I’ve read damn near all Sarah Greer’s stories. From what I can see, she doesn’t spew trash. Other than that one mess, she seems to be a professional, and I think she’d do the Blackwater Bar and Grill a world of good.” He looked at Brodix. “I say go for it.” He wagged his eyebrows and grinned. “And I’ve seen her picture too. She’s a cutie.”
Brodix chuckled. “Better not let Shayla hear you say that.” As it happened, Shayla was Vance’s high school sweetheart, but when she’d come back to town to rekindle what they’d once had, Vance had fallen for the petite redhead all over again. Brodix hadn’t seen his brother so happy in years.
Sammy looked at the twins. “Guys? What’s it going to be?”
Reilly and River exchanged a glance. Finally, River’s gaze landed on him. “If she comes anywhere near me and starts hammering me about my past—”
Brodix held up a hand. “She won’t. You have my word.”
A muscle in River’s jaw jumped, and he nodded. “That’s good enough for me, then. She can have her front-page story.”
Reilly shrugged. “If River is okay with it, then so am I.”
“Good,” Brodix said as he let himself breathe a little deeper. “I’ll get the ball rolling tonight at dinner.”
There was some commotion in the front room, and when Brodix heard his mom’s voice, he smiled. “I nearly forgot that we need to bring Mom in on this.”
Sammy laughed. “Are you kidding? Mom’s going to love the idea of her boys being front-page news.”
Vance snorted, and even River cracked a smile. Brodix didn’t get a chance to respond because in that moment, his mom walked into the room, and she wasn’t alone. Brodix frowned when he saw Sarah holding a bag of groceries in one hand and her cell phone in the other.
“Look who I ran into at the supermarket!” his mother exclaimed. “Sarah Greer from the
. Can you believe it?” The way his mom stared at Sarah, one would think they were in the presence of a celebrity.
It was Brodix’s bad luck that after spending the last several minutes convincing his brothers Sarah wouldn’t be a nuisance, the woman showed up carrying his mom’s groceries. Jesus H.
“I thought we agreed to meet at your place at seven, or was I mistaken?” he asked as he moved to take the bag from her. When he put it on the counter, he saw River moving closer to their mom. River took the grocery bag from her, but he never took his gaze from Sarah, as if she were a big bad wolf about to have lunch. Brodix wanted his brother to move past his reservations about reporters, to see that Sarah wasn’t cut from the same cloth as Larry. But wanting something didn’t necessarily mean it was going to happen. He was at least grateful that River hadn’t picked her up and tossed her out onto the front lawn. Judging by Reilly’s expression, the jury was still out on the possibility of that happening.
“Thank you,” Sarah replied when Brodix pulled a chair out for her at the table. As she looked up at him, her cheeks turned rosy. God, she was cute when she blushed. “I hope I’m not intruding. I told Wanda I didn’t really have to have a slice of her peach pie, but she insisted.”
“I did sort of twist her arm, Brodix,” his mom said, completely oblivious to the turmoil brewing in the room because of Sarah’s presence. “When I spied her checking out the frozen dinners, I couldn’t resist introducing myself.” His mom looked at Sarah, a sparkle in her eyes. “I’m such a fan of your news stories, it’s not even funny.”
Sarah waved the words away. “Oh, please. I’m a small-town reporter. Most of what I write gets buried so deep that you’d have to have a magnifying glass to find it.” She shrugged. “Every once in a while, I write something that people want to read.”
Brodix stayed standing, not sure if he should usher her out of the house, or wait and see what she was up to. When Vance propped an elbow on the table and smiled at Sarah, Brodix was shocked to see Sarah smiling right back. He decided to hang back and watch the show unfold. If she thought charming her way into their lives would work, then she definitely hadn’t done her research as thoroughly as she thought she had.
“I read your articles too,” Vance said. “I like them.”
“Thank you,” she replied as she cocked her head to the side. “You’re Vance, right?”
“Oh lordy,” his mom muttered as she slapped a palm against her forehead. “I didn’t even think to introduce you. Where are my manners?” She pointed to Sammy first and smiled. “That’s Sam; he’s my oldest. He recently found the love of his life, Julie.” His mom winked at Sarah. “You’ll meet her at the grand opening. She’s a terrific woman. You two are going to get along great.” His mom’s words had Brodix smelling a setup. Was the woman attempting to play matchmaker with him and Sarah? Scary thought, considering how tenacious his mother could be when she set her sights on something. As she moved closer to Reilly and patted him on the shoulder, Brodix braced himself for battle. “As you can see, these are my twins. This is Reilly, and the quiet one there is River.”
“We’ve met,” Reilly bit out, clearly irritated.
“Yes, it’s nice to see you again, Reilly,” Sarah said, her smile a little stiffer than before. Brodix noticed the way she kept darting nervous glances at River, then back at Reilly. She definitely wasn’t feeling the love, Brodix thought. Hell, the tension in the room was thick enough to cut.
Brodix stiffened when he saw Sarah slowly get to her feet, then scoot her chair in. “I think I’ll take a rain check on the pie, Wanda.” She made a point to check her watch before adding, “I really do need to be getting home.”
That same protective instinct that he’d felt earlier came rushing to the surface again. Brodix moved up beside Sarah and smiled down at her. “You should stay for Mom’s peach pie.” He placed a hand at the small of her back and said, “You won’t regret it, I promise.” When he looked over her head, he noticed Reilly frowning at him. Brodix narrowed his eyes and kept his hand on Sarah. A silent battle ensued as they stared at each other, neither of them backing down. When Sarah took a step toward the doorway to leave, Brodix saw Reilly’s lips curve upward, clearly satisfied.
“Maybe you can bring me a slice when you pick me up tonight,” Sarah said, reminding him they’d be seeing each other in a few hours. His blood heated at the thought.
“Let me walk you out,” he said as he caught up to her. “I forgot to give you my cell phone number anyway.”
When they reached Sarah’s little silver coupe, Brodix flattened a hand against the door to prevent her from leaving. “Why’d you really come here, Sarah?”
She sighed. “Your mom wasn’t lying. She saw me at the supermarket and invited me over.” She flung her hands up in the air. “It’s honestly as simple as that.”
“So, you’re totally innocent?”
Sarah looked away. She was pissed. Brodix could see it in the way she held herself, as if gearing up for a defensive maneuver. How often had she had to do that, he wondered. Blackwater was a small town with a big memory. He’d bet his last nickel that Sarah had been shunned more than once since the Coburn mess. While he knew it wasn’t fair to automatically think the worst, Sarah had made it damn clear that she wanted to interview them, and she wasn’t giving up without a fight. How far would she go?
Brodix took hold of her chin and forced her gaze back to his. Her skin was as soft as rose petals. He bit back the need to dip his head and taste her, and instead asked, “Tell me this had nothing to do with you attempting to get closer to my brothers, and I’ll believe you.”
She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, a gesture Brodix found sexier than he should, and answered, “I seriously don’t get the aversion to reporters that you and your brothers have. I’m sure you have your reasons, but truly, I’m not the devil you all seem to think I am. I want to do a piece about your life, yes. But not because I want to hear about all the horrible things you five went through. It’s because…because I think it’s pretty great that your mom took you all in the way she did.
“She’s a special lady. That she and your dad gave you a home, love, and all the things that come with being a family, well, in my eyes that makes the both of them rather awesome. And if you ask me, there aren’t nearly enough awesome people in the world. Wanda and Chet Jennings are rare, and I think it would be nice to show the world that good people still walk the earth. It sounds corny, probably, but that’s the bottom line.”
For the first time since he’d first heard Sarah’s voice on his machine, Brodix knew he’d misjudged her. Badly. “I’m sorry.”
Her eyes shot wide, affording Brodix a better view of the pretty blue pools. “What?”
“I can see how passionate you are about this.” He released her and stepped back, giving her some breathing room. Giving him the space required to keep his hands to himself. “I’ve had you pegged all wrong, Sarah, and for that I’m sorry.”
“Thank you. It means a lot.” She frowned as she looked past him toward the front of the house. “What about your brothers, though? I got the feeling Reilly and River would rather I go die in a hole. A deep one. What’s that about?”
“That’s only because they don’t know you. Give them time, and they’ll see you for who you really are.”
“And who am I?”
Brodix grinned and leaned closer to her ear. “Right now, you’re the woman setting me on fire.”
He heard her gasp of surprise, and Brodix groaned. Damn, he wanted to hear that little hitch in her voice in bed, while he brought her to climax. He reached around her, took hold of the door handle and gave it a tug. “You should go while I still have enough sense to remain a gentleman.”
“Yes, I-I think maybe you’re right,” she said, her voice low and soft.
As Sarah turned and got in the car, Brodix bent down and murmured, “This dinner isn’t strictly business. Not for me anyway.”
Sarah took hold of the steering wheel in a tight grip. “For me either.”
The small admission had Brodix’s cock thickening beneath his slacks. “Seven o’clock,” he growled. At her nod, he shut the door and stepped back.
Brodix watched as she started the car and backed down the driveway. In a few hours, he’d have her all to himself. Anticipation hummed through him at the thought. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this eager to spend time with a woman. He pulled out his phone and checked the display. Two hours and thirty-eight minutes. “And counting,” he mumbled to himself.
Several seconds ticked by while he stood there, grinning like a damn fool. When he heard someone call his name, Brodix turned to find his mother in the doorway, a sneaky grin curving her lips.
Ah crap, Matchmaker Wanda strikes again.
He’d be damned if he could muster up even an ounce of resentment, though.
Brodix arrived at Sarah’s apartment at seven sharp. Of course, he was on time. After all, he wasn’t about to be late for this. When she opened the door to her apartment, he nearly swallowed his friggin’ tongue. For their dinner date, she’d chosen a silky black dress that molded to her curves like a soft glove. The scoop neck showed off a delicate amount of cleavage. Just enough to lend to the beauty of her supple curves. Christ, she was perfect. Every man’s fantasy.
fantasy. Sarah Greer fit his definition of temptation to a T.